Benjamin Franklin and Auray:
Sketching in Brittany (1 day)

The historic port of Auray

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Benjamin Franklin first set foot in France here when he came to negotiate French financial help for the War of Independence; he was originally meant to land in Nantes, but a storm blew his vessel off course and brought him to Auray. The morning will be devoted to visiting this historic port town of Auray with its 15th, 16th and 17th century architecture, and its beautiful coastal landscapes literally a few steps away.


In his 1963 "Oyster River", Scottish author George Millar, tells the tale of sailing with his spouse Isabel on Brittany's Gulf of Morbihan.  Here he describes his first impressions of Auray as they sailed their yacht up the river there.

"Above the country shipyard the quays begin, and the fifteenth-century houses of the Quartier St-Goustan, or such parts of them as have survived.  An embrasured stone bridge connecting the Quartier with Auray blocks the river to further navigation.  We landed under the bridge on the Quai Benjamin Franklin.  Franklin sailed from Philadelphia during the American rebellion, intending to make Nantes.  He struck contrary weather off the Biscayan coast, enered the Gulf of Morbihan, and berthed at Auray.  In those days the water was dredged along the now sludged quays and St-Goustan harboured agents, merchants, crimps, harlots, chandlers, grogshops, and no doubt English spies.  Now it is an old corner where sightseers who have walked down from Auray and the main road's roarings sometimes penetrate with cameras.  We fell into the habit of shopping and eating in those crumbling lanes or by Franklin's quay rather than in the town above, where menu cards were held out into the streets by plywood effigies of chefs with waxed moustaches, pointed beards and currant or clove eyes.  Auray is a pleasant country town with, for Brittany, an excellent market".

Translation:  "On 4th December 1776 landed in Auray Benjamin Franklin, sent to France by the United State of America to negotiate the first alliance between the two countries."


In the morning we will visit the pretty little port that charmed even actor Gérard Depardieu so much he hesitated over buying a restaurant there, and tour the tiny little cobbled streets with their galleries and antique shops.  With part of the morning set aside for sketching, lunch will be on the port.  The menu will include seafood (oysters an option too), with meat or vegetarian options available as well. 

The afternoon will be devoted to a walk and sketching itinerary along the sentier littorale, the path along the Auray River's edge to the sea.  Wild egrets, maritime pines, rising and falling tides and even two or three stately manors will be there for the sketching.

View of the Auray River along the coastal path to the sea

Return to the port at the end of the afternoon for a coffee or tea in a French pub, to share our drawings and talk about the learnings.

Time will be allowed for visiting the shops to bring home local specialities and souvenirs of Brittany, including kouign amann, the sweet butter pastry, and gourmet fish spreads.


Price: €180 (all taxes included)

Course materials included

Lunch and pub drinks not included


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